Lord of the Flies

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Ralph Character Analysis

The largest and most physically powerful boy on the island. Despite his size and strength, Ralph shows no signs of wanting to dominate others and is preoccupied with being rescued. He insists on planning and following the rules, and is able to prioritize the needs of the group above his own selfish desires. For example, Ralph builds the huts even though he dislikes the work, in contrast to the other boys who go off to play whenever they dislike doing important tasks. Ralph feels the exhilaration of hunting and killing, but he always manages to suppress savage feelings. Ralph symbolizes law, government, and civil society.

Ralph Quotes in Lord of the Flies

The Lord of the Flies quotes below are all either spoken by Ralph or refer to Ralph. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Human Nature Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Penguin Books edition of Lord of the Flies published in 2003.
Chapter 1 Quotes
"Aren't there any grownups at all?"
"I don't think so."
The fair boy said this solemnly; but then the delight of a realized ambition overcame him. In the middle of the scar he stood on his head and grinned at the reversed fat boy.
"No grownups!"
Related Characters: Ralph (speaker), Piggy (speaker)
Related Symbols: Adults
Page Number: 8
Explanation and Analysis:

The premise of the novel is that a group of young boys has been marooned on a island. Their plane has seemingly crash-landed nearby, and every adult has been killed in the wreck. Right away, the boys are delighted by the absence of adults, whom they associate with order, discipline, and punishment (as any British schoolboy might). Notice that Ralph, the boy with the fair hair, is at first solemn, then happy about the absence of adults. Ralph has a natural instinct to feel sympathy and compassion for the dead and the wounded. But because he's also a child, Ralph's sympathy is quickly replaced with delight.

The quotation is important because it sets up the plot of the book: a group of boys on an island, without any grownups around. On a more metaphorical level, Golding intends his scenario to be a metaphor for human society--a society in which people are free to do as they please. In short, Golding wants to ask us, What would unlimited human freedom look like? The fact that Golding chooses children for his microcosmic view of human society suggests that he sees children as really being no different from adults--equally foolish, equally destructive, equally clueless about how to be good. Or perhaps Golding is trying to make a more complicated point by choosing to write a dark, sinister novel about children and society: if even children (pure, innocent children) are capable of falling into murder and bloodshed, then what hope do adults have?

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"We can use this to call the others. Have a meeting. They'll come when they hear us—"
He beamed at Ralph.
"That was what you meant, didn't you? That's why you got the conch out of the water."
Related Characters: Piggy (speaker), Ralph
Related Symbols: The Conch Shell
Page Number: 16
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Piggy and Ralph find a strange object, a large sea shell called a conch. Ralph is immediately attracted to the conch because of its beautiful, patterned shape. Although he doesn't quite seem to know what to do with the shell, Piggy suggests using it to "call" other children on the island--Ralph can blow into the shell to make a loud sound.

The conch is one of the most famous symbols in the novel, and it's worth discussing a little here. One could say that the conch is a symbol of civilization at its best and most orderly: the conch is an almost religious symbol, designed to unite people together and make them respect one another. It's also worth noting that Piggy, not Ralph, is the one who first considers using the shell to call the other boys, and yet Piggy wants Ralph to blow the shell. Piggy, we could say, is the intellectual advisor--wise, intelligent, but not really a leader. Ralph, on the other hand, is the principled leader--not particularly brilliant, but smart enough to listen to his advisors.

Chapter 2 Quotes
"He says he saw the beastie, the snake-thing, and will it come back tonight?"
"But there isn't a beastie!"
"He says in the morning it turned into them things like ropes in the trees and hung in the branches. He says will it come back again tonight?"
"But there isn't a beastie!"
There was no laughter at all now and more grave watching. Ralph pushed both hands through his hair and looked at the little boy in mixed amusement and exasperation.
Related Characters: Ralph (speaker), Piggy (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Lord of the Flies (the Beast)
Page Number: 36
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, one of the small boys who's been trapped on the island asks Ralph--who's just been elected the leader of the island--what he's going to do about the "beastie." The small boy--probably no more than 5 or 6 years old--is terrified of the beastie, and wants Ralph to fight it.

It's important to note a few things. First, the passage sets a clear contrast between order and civilization, symbolized by Ralph and his conch, and anarchy, symbolized by the fear of the vague, formless beastie. For the time being, the boys either don't believe the beastie exists (Ralph, the rationalist, dismisses it altogether), or they think of it as an external thing--a literal monster to be avoided or slain. As we'll see later on, however the beastie is actually a more abstract, psychological opponent.

Finally, it's interesting to note that the little boy isn't speaking directly--he's actually using Piggy as a correspondent when addressing Ralph. Piggy, the intellectual of the group, is something of a spokesman for society's problems: it's his job to listen to the "little guy" and plead his case before the authorities (i.e., Ralph).

Ralph waved the conch.
"Shut up! Wait! Listen!"
He went on in the silence, borne on in his triumph.
"There's another thing. We can help them to find us. If a ship comes near the island they may not notice us. So we must make smoke on top of the mountain. We must make a fire."
"A fire! Make a fire!"
Related Characters: Ralph (speaker)
Related Symbols: Fire
Page Number: 38
Explanation and Analysis:

Here, Ralph--newly elected the leader of the boys--proposes a solution to the boys' most important problem. Trapped on the island, the boys need a way to escape. Thus, Ralph proposes building a large fire that can send out a smoke signal, visible for miles in every direction.

Notice that while every one of the boys seems enthusiastic about building the fire, most seem more interested in the fire itself than in using it be rescued. Fire itself is a complex symbol of both order and chaos. Fire is the quintessential human invention (see the legend of Prometheus, for instance), but it's also the quintessential symbol of destruction and chaos. Ralph and his peers on the island have the potential to use fire for good--to make a smoke signal--or to use it to destroy each other and the entire island. It remains to be seen how the group will use fire, but the boys' overly enthusiastic, mob-like attitude doesn't bode well.

Chapter 12 Quotes
What did it mean? A stick sharpened at both ends. What was there in that?
Related Characters: Ralph (speaker)
Page Number: 191
Explanation and Analysis:

At the end of the novel, Ralph prepares to be hunted down by Jack and his gang of boys. Shortly before he's to be hunted, Ralph crosses paths with Samneric, who have been forced to join Jack, but don't respect him at all. Samneric tell Ralph that Jack is sharpening a stick at both ends. Although Ralph has no idea what this means, it's suggested that Jack is planning to cut off Ralph's head and "sacrifice" it to the Beast, much as he did with the pig earlier in the novel.

As the passage suggests, Jack's society is a dark mirror-image of the one Ralph founded at the beginning of the novel. Where Ralph's society was based on reason, free speech, and practicality, Jack's society is based on murder, brutality, and bloodshed. And yet both societies "work" in the same way: they're organized around a central figure (Ralph, Jack), who's armed with a barrage of symbols (for Ralph, the conch; for Jack, the pig's head and Ralph's head). As Jack sees it, there is no right or wrong in the world. His society is based on one thing: power. Jack will hunt down Ralph and kill him to cement his power and create a new symbol of his power.

His voice rose under the black smoke before the burning wreckage of the island; and infected by that emotion, the other little boys began to shake and sob too. And in the middle of them, with filthy body, matted hair, and unwiped nose, Ralph wept for the end of innocence, the darkness of man's heart, and the fall through the air of the true, wise friend called Piggy.
Related Characters: Ralph, Piggy
Related Symbols: The Island, Fire, Adults
Page Number: 202
Explanation and Analysis:

In the final chapter of Lord of the Flies, the boys are faced with a surprising rescue. Confronted with a grown-up for the first time in weeks, the boys suddenly realize how far they've fallen. In no time at all, the boys have become bloodthirsty murderers, savoring murder and violence of all kinds. The evidence of their barbarism is visible everywhere--their island itself is in ruins, burning to ashes by fire.

Confronted with the misery of his situation, Ralph has no choice but to cry. He can see very clearly what has gone wrong: Piggy has been killed; his peers have tried to murder him, etc. But Ralph goes further, weeping for the general savagery of humankind. The quotation is important, then, because Golding uses it to make explicit what he'd previously implied: the children's experiences on the island are a metaphor for humanity itself. If innocent, "pure" children, left to their own devices, are capable of murdering each other, then humanity as a whole is hopelessly destructive, too. The fact that children are capable of such destruction suggests that there is always innate evil in the human soul--the only thing that can save the human race from its own "heart of darkness" is civilization, grounded in reason, law, and respect.

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Ralph Character Timeline in Lord of the Flies

The timeline below shows where the character Ralph appears in Lord of the Flies. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
Human Nature Theme Icon
The Weak and the Strong Theme Icon
The fat boy asks the tall boy his name. The tall boy answers, Ralph. But instead of asking the fat boy's name, Ralph wanders off. The fat boy follows,... (full context)
Human Nature Theme Icon
The Weak and the Strong Theme Icon
Eventually the fat boy finds Ralph and proposes they call a meeting and make a list of everyone who survived. He... (full context)
Civilization Theme Icon
The Weak and the Strong Theme Icon
The boys keep exploring. Ralph finds a perfect swimming hole and says his father, who's in the Navy, will come... (full context)
Human Nature Theme Icon
Civilization Theme Icon
Savagery and the "Beast" Theme Icon
Spirituality and Religion Theme Icon
The Weak and the Strong Theme Icon
...the choir, Simon, faints. Jack soon tells Piggy to shut up, and calls him "Fatty." Ralph gleefully reveals that Piggy's name is "Piggy." Everyone laughs, humiliating Piggy. (full context)
Civilization Theme Icon
Savagery and the "Beast" Theme Icon
...leader. Everyone in the choir votes for Jack, but all the other boys vote for Ralph because he blew the conch. To keep Jack happy, Ralph says that the choir will... (full context)
Civilization Theme Icon
Savagery and the "Beast" Theme Icon
Spirituality and Religion Theme Icon
Ralph decides the boys must explore their island. He and Jack will both go, of course.... (full context)
Human Nature Theme Icon
Civilization Theme Icon
Savagery and the "Beast" Theme Icon
...uninhabited island. They also see the "scar" where the crashing plane tore through the jungle. Ralph says of the island, "This belongs to us." (full context)
Chapter 2
Human Nature Theme Icon
Savagery and the "Beast" Theme Icon
The Weak and the Strong Theme Icon
Back at the beach, Ralph blows the conch to call another meeting. Ralph announces that they're on an uninhabited island.... (full context)
Civilization Theme Icon
Ralph says that without adults, they'll have to take care of themselves. He makes a rule... (full context)
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Savagery and the "Beast" Theme Icon
Piggy takes the conch and says no one knows they're on the island. Ralph agrees, but describes the island as a good place where they'll have fun even if... (full context)
Human Nature Theme Icon
Civilization Theme Icon
Savagery and the "Beast" Theme Icon
The Weak and the Strong Theme Icon
...the boy said. He saw a "beastie," a "snake-thing," the previous night in the woods. Ralph and the older boys dismiss this "beastie" as just a nightmare, but the younger boys... (full context)
Civilization Theme Icon
Ralph says he's confident they boys will be rescued. He suggests they build a fire on... (full context)
Civilization Theme Icon
Savagery and the "Beast" Theme Icon
The Weak and the Strong Theme Icon
...can't figure out how start the fire until Jack grabs the glasses off Piggy's face. Ralph uses the glasses to focus the sun's rays on the wood. Piggy is terrified, nearly... (full context)
Civilization Theme Icon
Savagery and the "Beast" Theme Icon
Ralph says they have to keep the fire burning every day without fail. Jack volunteers himself... (full context)
Chapter 3
Civilization Theme Icon
Savagery and the "Beast" Theme Icon
Spirituality and Religion Theme Icon
On the beach, Ralph and Simon are building huts. Ralph is frustrated because only he and Simon are working... (full context)
Savagery and the "Beast" Theme Icon
Ralph's complaint offends Jack. Ralph points out that all the hunters except Jack came back hours... (full context)
Civilization Theme Icon
Savagery and the "Beast" Theme Icon
Ralph and Jack argue whether hunting is as important as building shelters. (full context)
Savagery and the "Beast" Theme Icon
Spirituality and Religion Theme Icon
Ralph says they need shelters because many of the boys are scared. Simon observes that it... (full context)
Civilization Theme Icon
Ralph puts the focus of the conversation back on getting rescued. He mentions Jack and the... (full context)
Chapter 4
Human Nature Theme Icon
Civilization Theme Icon
Savagery and the "Beast" Theme Icon
The Weak and the Strong Theme Icon
On the beach, a bunch of biguns, including Ralph and Piggy, rest and talk. Soon Piggy comes up with a plan for them to... (full context)
Civilization Theme Icon
Savagery and the "Beast" Theme Icon
Suddenly Ralph spots smoke on the horizon—it's a ship! Everyone looks at the mountain, but there's no... (full context)
Civilization Theme Icon
Eventually Jack apologizes for letting the fire die. Ralph asks Piggy's permission to use his glasses to light the fire. Ralph realizes he and... (full context)
Civilization Theme Icon
Savagery and the "Beast" Theme Icon
...boys begin to reenact the killing of the pig in a kind of ritual dance. Ralph announces that he's calling an assembly and walks away. (full context)
Chapter 5
Civilization Theme Icon
The Weak and the Strong Theme Icon
Ralph paces the beach, planning what he'll say at the meeting and wishing he could think... (full context)
Civilization Theme Icon
Savagery and the "Beast" Theme Icon
Everyone gathers and listens to Ralph. He explains that the meeting is about setting things straight, not fun. He points out... (full context)
Civilization Theme Icon
Savagery and the "Beast" Theme Icon
Jack stands and reaches for the conch so he can talk. But Ralph refuses to hand it over and Jack sits back down. (full context)
Civilization Theme Icon
Savagery and the "Beast" Theme Icon
Ralph observes that people are becoming afraid. He doesn't know why, but he thinks they should... (full context)
Civilization Theme Icon
Spirituality and Religion Theme Icon
...idea is crazy. Many of the boys think Simon's saying the beast is a ghost. Ralph holds a vote on whether the boys believe in ghosts. A majority raises their hands. (full context)
Civilization Theme Icon
Savagery and the "Beast" Theme Icon
The Weak and the Strong Theme Icon
Ralph accuses Jack of breaking the rules. Jack questions Ralph's leadership. He says he doesn't care... (full context)
Civilization Theme Icon
Savagery and the "Beast" Theme Icon
Piggy tells Ralph to blow the conch, but Ralph refuses. What if no one responded? Ralph considers stepping... (full context)
Civilization Theme Icon
The three boys wish adults were around to make everything better. Ralph wishes the adults would at least send them a sign. (full context)
Chapter 6
Human Nature Theme Icon
Civilization Theme Icon
Savagery and the "Beast" Theme Icon
The Weak and the Strong Theme Icon
Ralph calls a meeting that quickly becomes heated. Jack questions Ralph's decisions and leadership, mocks Piggy,... (full context)
Human Nature Theme Icon
Civilization Theme Icon
Savagery and the "Beast" Theme Icon
The Weak and the Strong Theme Icon
Ralph and the biguns agree to search the island. Piggy stays behind to look after the... (full context)
Civilization Theme Icon
Savagery and the "Beast" Theme Icon
Jack and the other biguns want to stay and play at the fort, but Ralph says they have to go search the mountain for the beast and relight the signal... (full context)
Chapter 7
Human Nature Theme Icon
Civilization Theme Icon
Savagery and the "Beast" Theme Icon
Spirituality and Religion Theme Icon
While resting on the hike to the mountain, Ralph wishes he could cut his hair, clip his nails, and get cleaned up. Remembering his... (full context)
Human Nature Theme Icon
Civilization Theme Icon
Savagery and the "Beast" Theme Icon
The Weak and the Strong Theme Icon
...as they head through the jungle toward the mountain, the boys find signs of pigs. Ralph agrees that as long as they're going in the right direction, they can hunt. Soon,... (full context)
Spirituality and Religion Theme Icon
The Weak and the Strong Theme Icon
Darkness falls before they reach the mountain. Ralph realizes that they need to send someone to tell Piggy they won't be back that... (full context)
Savagery and the "Beast" Theme Icon
Jack mocks Ralph's concern for Piggy. Ralph asks Jack why he hates him. The question makes all the... (full context)
Civilization Theme Icon
Savagery and the "Beast" Theme Icon
At the base of the mountain, the boys stop for the night. But Jack questions Ralph's courage, and so Ralph agrees to climb right then. Only Roger agrees to accompany them.... (full context)
Chapter 8
Civilization Theme Icon
...the beach, Piggy can't believe the beast is real. He asks what they should do. Ralph isn't sure. He says the beast is sitting up by the signal fire as if... (full context)
Human Nature Theme Icon
Civilization Theme Icon
Savagery and the "Beast" Theme Icon
Jack says his hunters could kill the beast. Ralph says they're just boys with sticks. Infuriated, Jack blows the conch to call a meeting.... (full context)
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Next Jack accuses Ralph of belittling the hunters. He says Ralph is like Piggy and isn't a proper chief.... (full context)
Human Nature Theme Icon
Civilization Theme Icon
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The Weak and the Strong Theme Icon
The boys build the fire and the littleuns dance and sing. After the fire, Ralph realizes that all the biguns but Samneric and Piggy have disappeared. Most have gone to... (full context)
Savagery and the "Beast" Theme Icon
...a big sow (a female pig). Jack cuts off its head. He decides they'll raid Ralph's camp fore fire to cook the pig, and invite everyone to a feast. Roger, meanwhile,... (full context)
Civilization Theme Icon
Savagery and the "Beast" Theme Icon
Jack emerges from the forest into Ralph's camp. As his followers steal fire from the signal fire, he invites Ralph's group to... (full context)
Human Nature Theme Icon
Civilization Theme Icon
Savagery and the "Beast" Theme Icon
Spirituality and Religion Theme Icon
...warns Simon that if he tries to interfere Jack, Roger, Maurice, Robert, Bill, Piggy, and Ralph will "do" him. (full context)
Chapter 9
Civilization Theme Icon
Savagery and the "Beast" Theme Icon
The Weak and the Strong Theme Icon
Meanwhile, everyone but a few littleuns and Ralph and Piggy have gone to Jack's feast. Ralph mocks the feast as a bunch of... (full context)
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Savagery and the "Beast" Theme Icon
When Ralph arrives, Jack asks the gathered boys who will join his tribe. Ralph says that he's... (full context)
Human Nature Theme Icon
Civilization Theme Icon
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It starts to rain, and Ralph laughs that Jack's tribe had no foresight to build shelters. In response, Jack whips the... (full context)
Chapter 10
Civilization Theme Icon
The next morning, Piggy and Ralph discover that every bigun except them and Samneric has joined Jack's tribe. Ralph tells Piggy... (full context)
Civilization Theme Icon
Savagery and the "Beast" Theme Icon
...says they'll go hunting tomorrow and have a feast. To cook the meat, they'll raid Ralph's group for Piggy's glasses. Meanwhile, Ralph, Piggy, and Samneric discover four people aren't enough to... (full context)
Chapter 11
Civilization Theme Icon
Savagery and the "Beast" Theme Icon
The Weak and the Strong Theme Icon
Though only Piggy, Ralph, and Samneric remain in their group, Piggy tells Ralph to blow the conch to call... (full context)
Civilization Theme Icon
Savagery and the "Beast" Theme Icon
At Castle Rock, Ralph blows the conch. Roger throws a rock, though he purposely misses the twins and the... (full context)
Civilization Theme Icon
Savagery and the "Beast" Theme Icon
Jack appears from the forest behind Ralph's group, followed by hunters carrying a pig on a spit. Ralph calls Jack a thief.... (full context)
Civilization Theme Icon
Savagery and the "Beast" Theme Icon
Ralph demands that Jack return Piggy's glasses. He mentions again the importance of the signal fire.... (full context)
Civilization Theme Icon
Ralph and Jack start to fight again, but Piggy asks to speak and Ralph relents. Piggy... (full context)
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Savagery and the "Beast" Theme Icon
Roger pushes a boulder from the fort. Ralph dives out of the way, but Piggy can't see without his glasses: the boulder hits... (full context)
Savagery and the "Beast" Theme Icon
Stunned silence descends over the tribe. But suddenly Jack screams and throws his spear at Ralph, aiming to kill. Ralph runs into the jungle, dodging as more boys throw their spears... (full context)
Chapter 12
Civilization Theme Icon
Savagery and the "Beast" Theme Icon
The Weak and the Strong Theme Icon
Ralph spies on Castle Rock from a hiding place in the forest. He thinks the boys... (full context)
Human Nature Theme Icon
In the jungle, Ralph comes upon the skull of a pig hung on a spear staked into the ground.... (full context)
Savagery and the "Beast" Theme Icon
Ralph returns to spy on Castle Rock. Samneric are guarding the gates. He sneaks up to... (full context)
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Ralph tells Samneric he's going to hide in a nearby thicket so they can misdirect the... (full context)
Savagery and the "Beast" Theme Icon
The Weak and the Strong Theme Icon
The next morning Ralph hides in the thicket. But it's soon surrounded: Samneric have been tortured into revealing Ralph's... (full context)
Savagery and the "Beast" Theme Icon
...tries to storm it. They can't get in, so they set the thicket on fire. Ralph breaks from the thicket and runs into the jungle. The tribe follows, spreading out behind... (full context)
Savagery and the "Beast" Theme Icon
As the jungle burns, the tribe chases Ralph from hiding place to hiding place. He has no time to think or plan: he... (full context)
Civilization Theme Icon
Savagery and the "Beast" Theme Icon
The tribe slowly surrounds him, until Ralph is forced onto the open beach, where he'll surely be killed. But in front of... (full context)
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Savagery and the "Beast" Theme Icon
The Weak and the Strong Theme Icon
The savages trickle out of the forest behind Ralph. The officer asks who's in charge. Ralph says he is. Jack is quiet. Percival Wemys... (full context)
Human Nature Theme Icon
Civilization Theme Icon
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...they're having a war, and jokingly asks if they've had any casualties. He's stunned when Ralph says two. The officer says he would have expected more from British boys. Ralph begins... (full context)